The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan
(3 vols. London: Henry S. King & Co., 1874. Boston: James R. Osgood and Co., 1874.)
Vol. I. continued
‘Polypheme’s Passion’ - from Undertones, 1863. This shorter version only appears in the 1874 King edition of the Poetical Works.
(AFTER EURIPIDES AND THEOCRITUS.)
AY me! ay me!
Be calm, sweet Polypheme!
The eagle poised o’er yonder cropping lamb
Flew scared at that sad cry.
Ay me! I am
Lost, swallow’d up, absorbed into a dream!
Thro’ the swift current of my frame gigantic
Eddies a frantic
Consuming fire. I am not what I seem.
For Galatea I refuse all food,
For Galatea I grow weak and wild
And petulant-featured as a fretful child;
For Galatea I in desperate mood
Seek out green places in this solitude,
And close my eyes, and think I am a curl
Tingling, tingling, lightly
Against the snow-heap’d bosom swelling whitely
One should not break his heart for any girl.
I close my eyelids in delicious woe,
And dream that I am small and dainty-sweet,
For a small goddess’s embraces meet,
Nor huge, nor rough. It was not always so!
Of old, Silenus, this great awful Me
Was swoll’n with glory at the contemplation
Of its enormity in yonder Sea;
I revell’d in the roar and consternation,
When, grasping rocks with frantic acclamation,
Round this frowning, Ætna-crowning head I whirl’d them,
Tremendously, stupendously, and hurl’d them
On the passing fleets below;
And from under came the thunder of vessels crush’d asunder,
And the shriek, faint and weak, of the mortals in their wonder,
And the sea rolled underneath, and the winds began to blow,
And above the desolation, drunk with rage, I took my station,
With my waving arms expanded and my crimson Eye aglow,
And to earth’s reverberation,
Roar’d ‘Ho! ho! ho!’
Cyclops! sweet Cyclops!—you appal me!
I am as weak as the eagle’s callow young;
Yet listen, mild old man, and interfere not.
One summer-day, when earth and heaven rung
With thunders, and the hissing lightning stung
With forkèd meteor tongue
The green smooth living Ocean till it shriek’d—
I stood aloft on Ætna’s horn and wreak’d
My cruel humour with a monstrous glee:
When lo! from out the rainy void did flit
Bright Iris, and with tremulous foot alit
On this my mountain, touching even me
With her faint glory: for a moment, she
Paused bright’ning high above me: then with fleet
Footstep slid downward till she reach’d my feet;
And there, with many-tinctured wings serene,
She waved the seas to silence, till, beguiled
By her mild message, the sad Ocean smiled—
A palpitating lapse of oily green,
With silvery glimmers here and there between
The shadows of the clouds that, dewy and mild,
Parted and flutter’d:—when, with radiant head
Plunging among the parting mists, she fled.
But, as the vapours passed away, behold!
I saw far down upon the brown sea-strand
A Nymph who held aloft in pearly hand
A white-tooth’d comb, and comb’d her locks of gold
Over a dank and shipwreck’d sailor-lad,—
On whose damp eyelids a chill radiance lay,
Robb’d from some little homestead far away.
Oh! tenderly she comb’d her locks of gold,
Over that gently-sleeping sailor-lad,
Stretch’d ’mid the purple dulse and rockweed cold;
And all the while she sang a ditty sad.
Then ho! with my great stride,
Down the steep mountain side,
I sprang unto her, with mine arms extended!
Her bright locks gleam’d afraid,
Like a sunbeam trapt in shade,
In my deep shadow, and the music ended:
And she rose erect to fly,
Panting, moaning, and her cry
Met the lifted cry of Ocean, and they blended!
While earth reel’d under,
Downward I bore,
With step of thunder,
On to the shore;
And in shrieking amaze,
With eyes fasten’d in fear—
Like a star’s firm gaze
When a cloud draws near—
On the horror that came
With an eye of flame,
She leapt to the water,
And her bright locks shone
And tript and distraught her,
But the water caught her
And push’d her on!
From billow to billow,
With wild locks streaming
And tangling oft;
From billow to billow,
Dark-green, or gleaming
Like dove’s wings soft,
From billow to billow,
Panting and screaming,
With white hands beaming
And waving aloft!
Then, coming hideous
On to the tide,
I spurn’d the perfidious
And follow’d her, dashing
Thro’ storm sublime,
On the seaweed’s slippery slime!
The billows clomb
With flash of foam,
Up loins and thighs:
Till they gleam’d and fleam’d,
With clangor and anger,
And around me upstream’d
With their wild white eyes!
Till panting, choking,
Dripping and soaking,
I saw her sitting
Where gulls were flitting
Far out on the deep;
And all around her with gentle motion
One smooth soft part of the murmurous ocean
Had gone to sleep!
Then waving her hands,
And shaking her locks,
To the ocean sands,
To the purple rocks
Under the foam,
To the sea-caves brown,
She sank to her home,
Down! down! down! down!
And the sea grew black
In her shining track,
And the waters green
And the one thing seen
Was the steadfast star
Of my round Eye red,
With a pain intense
In my rocky head,
Mid the white foam wreathing
And the great sea seething
Down to deep breathing,
Like a monster panting, on its sandy bed!
Most musical Cyclops!
Hush!—Unto the beach
I wearily strode, with great head bow’d, and dragg’d
Foot-echoes after me; and with no speech,
On yonder shore, weedy and wet and cragg’d,
I stood, and in an agony of pain
Look’d out with widening eyeball on the main.
Lo! far away a white wind glided dim
O’er the cloud-cover’d bright’ning ocean-rim,
And violet shadows here and there were trail’d
Over the waters: then behold the sun
Flasht wan across the waste, and one by one,
Like dryads dripping dew, rose ships white-sail’d.
All else was silence, save monotonous moan
Of the broad-chested billows, till the warm
Light kindled all things, and I loomed alone—
The one huge Cloud remaining of the Storm;
And in the awfulness of that strange hour
A change came over my big throbbing breast,
And the soft picture of the calm had power
To move my mountainous bulk with vague unrest!—
Weep not, O Cyclops—lest thy tears should roll
Down oceanward and brain the grazing sheep!
Ay me, ay me, the passion in my soul!
Ay me, her glory haunts me, and I weep!—
Oh, I would give away the world to be
As soft, as sweet, as fleecy-limb’d as she,
As tiny and as tender and as white
As her mild loveliness!
With two soft eyes such as mere men possess,
Two pretty little dewy eyes, that might
Interpret me aright!
Amazement!—Polypheme, whom to Poseidon
Great Thoosa bare in the vast halls of brine,
Thou who canst strangle giants, sit astride on
Ætna, and roar thine origin divine!
Wrong not thyself, thy beauty, and thy sire!
See! where thy mighty shadow stretches wide
Down the steep mountain side,
And see! that Eyeball of immortal fire!
Had wanton Helen, Paris’ love-sick toy,
Beheld thee, Polypheme,
Hill-haunting Echo had not found a theme
In ruin and the ten years’ war of Troy.
And is it so?
By Ganymede bright eyed,
Enough. Hear on. In love’s dim birth
I look’d abroad upon the fair green earth;
And lo, all things that lived, all things that stirr’d,
Unto the very daisy closing up
In my great shade its crimson-tippëd cup,
And the small lambs, and every little bird,
Seem’d to abhor and dread, avoid and fear me;
And in an agony of hate for all,
I cried ‘How could a thing so sweet, so small,
So gentle, love me—or be happy near me?’
Whereon I sadly clomb the cliffs and made
A looking-glass of yonder ocean, where,
Startled by my long shade,
The silver-bellied fishes swam afraid;
But with a lover’s hand I smooth’d my hair
To sleekness, and I parted it with care,
Hushing the rugged sorrow of my brow—
Then, stooping softly o’er the dimpled mirror,
I shaped my face to a sweet smile—as now!
O agony! help, help, ye gods! O terror!
What ails thee? Ha!
O Ocean’s child—
Cyclops! My heart, with admiration rent,
Fainted and cried with its deep ravishment
Because you look’d so beauteous when you smiled!
Thou liest!—and (ay me!) you shrunk in fear,
As silly younglings shrink at something hateful;
Yet tremble not:—to a lorn lover’s ear
E’en flattery so base as thine is grateful.
Ay me, ay me!—I am
A great sad Mountain in whose depths doth roam
My small Soul, wandering like a gentle Lamb
That bleats from place to place and has no home;
But prison’d among rocks
Can just behold afar
A land where honey-flowing rivers are,
And gentle shepherds with their gentle flocks:
For even so my timid Soul looks round
On beauteous living things—that creep and seem,
To this vast Eye, like insects on the ground—
From whose companionship ’tis shut and bound
Within this mountain of a Polypheme!
Most melancholy Cyclops, be consoled!
My heart is like those blubbery crimson blots
That float on the dank tide in oozy spots;
It is as mild as patient flocks in fold.
I am as lonely as the snowy peak
Of Dardonos, and, like an eagle, Love
Stoops o’er me, helpless, from its eyrie above,
And grasps that lamb, my Soul, within its beak!
Nay, on the margin of the waters where
She comes and goes like a swift gull, I sit
Above these flocks, and rake my little wit
To pipe upon the misty mountain air
Ditties as tender as a shepherd man,
Perch’d on a little hillock, half asleep,
Surrounded by his silly stainless sheep,
Pipes with mild pleasure and no definite plan
In fields Arcadian. [He sings.
White is the little hand of Galatea,
Combing her yellow locks with dreamy care;
Bright is the gleaming hand of Galatea,
A white dove in a mesh of golden hair.
Sweet is Galatea—sweet is Galatea—
Ay, so sweet!
Complete is Galatea, from her fingers dainty fair
To her small white mice of feet!
The breakers huge and hoar cease to rage and to roar,
When the white hands wave above them, like birds that shine and soar,
And, as gentle, from the shore, I adore, and implore Galatea!
Ho, that these limbs were meet for Galatea
With soft sweet arm-sweep fondly to enfold!
Ho, had I two small eyes, that Galatea
Might there my gentle little heart behold!
Dear is Galatea—dear is Galatea—
Ay, so dear!
No peer has Galatea, but her bosom is so cold
And her face so full of fear!
When the waters wildly rise, there is terror in her eyes,
And she warbles in sweet wonder, like a bird that storms surprise,—
And before my tender cries, and my sighs, swiftly flies Galatea!
Under the white sea-storm is Galatea,
While overhead the sea-birds scream in flocks,
In deep-green darkness singeth Galatea,
Combing out sunshine from her golden locks!
Fair sits Galatea—fair sits Galatea—
Ay, so fair!
Oh, there sits Galatea, in the shade of purple rocks,
Mid the fountain of her hair!
Ho, would I were the waves, on whose crest the tempest raves,
So might I still the tempest that my raging bulk outbraves,
For the dark-green stillness laves, and enslaves, and encaves
Majestic Cyclops! Heir of the huge Sea!
God-like,—like those great heavens that oversheen us!
One-eyed, like the bright Day! Wilt thou by me,
Thy servant, be advised?
Speak on, Silenus.
Behold!—Beneath the many-tinctured West hid,
Fades Phoibos crimson-crested,
And the faint image of his parting light
On the deep Sea broad-breasted
Fades glassily; while down the mountain height
Behind us slides the purple shadow’d Night.
Come in!—and from your cellar iced by springs
Drag forth the god of wine,
And listen to him as he chirps and sings
His songs delicious, dulcet, and divine:
Throned in the brain, magnificently wise,
And blowing warmly out thro’ kindled eyes
All vapours vapid, vain, and vague.
Seek the god’s counsel, Cyclops, I beseech thee;
’Tis he alone, if once his magic reach thee,
Can cure Love’s panting heat or shivering ague.
He cannot make me fair!
Pooh!—He will teach thee
To lift thy dreamy gaze from the soft sod,
And rise erect, big-hearted, self-reliant,
On Ætna’s horn, with leathern lungs defiant—
No minnow-hearted grampus of a god!
And—then in the quick flush and exultation
Of that proud inspiration,
Wine in his nostrils, Polypheme will be
In Polypheme’s own estimation
A match for any maid on land or sea.
Then, furiously, gloriously, rash,
Grasp Opportunity, that, passing by
On the sheet-lightning with a moment’s flash,
Haunts us for ever with its meteor eye;
And—seize the thing thou pantest for in vain,
Ay, hold her fast, and for a space intreat her—
But, if she still be deaf to thy sad pain,
Why, hearken to the mad god in thy brain,
And make a meal of trouble—that is, eat her!
‘Cloudland’ - from Idyls and Legends of Inverburn, 2nd. edition, 1866. Originally published in the July 1863 edition of The St. James’s Magazine under the title, ‘John Keats in Cloudland’.
‘Pan’ - from Undertones, 1863. The original version was published in the 1884 Chatto & Windus Poetical Works, whereas this is a slightly revised version.
That homeless cry with which the great god Pan
Troubled the fields of azure long ago.
IT is not well, ye gods, it is not well!
Yea, hear me grumble—rouse, ye sleepers, rouse
Upon thick-carpeted Olympus’ top—
Nor, faintly hearing, murmur in your sloth
‘’Tis but the voice of Pan the malcontent!’
Shake the sleek sunshine from ambrosial locks,
Vouchsafe a sleepy glance at the far earth,
And smile, and sleep again!
Me, when at first
The deep Vast murmur’d, and Eternity
Gave forth a hollow sound while from its voids
Ye blossom’d thick as flowers, and by the light
Beheld yourselves eternal and divine,—
Me underneath the darkness visible,
Me, ye saw sleeping in a dream, white-hair’d,
Low-lidded, gentle, aged, and like the ghost
Of the eternal self-unconsciousness
Out of whose change ye had awaken’d—gods
Fair-statured, self-apparent, marvellous,
Dove-eyed, and inconceivably divine.
Over the ledges of high mountains, thro’
The dewy streams of the new-risen dawn,
Uprose Apollo, shaking from his locks
Celestial dews, and making as he rose
A murmur such as west winds weave in June.
Wherefore the darkness in whose depth I sat
Wonder’d: thro’ newly-woven boughs, the Light
Crept onward to mine eyelids unaware,
And fluttering o’er my wrinkled length of limb
Disturb’d me,—and I stirr’d, and open’d eyes,
Then lifted up my eyes to see the Light,
And saw the Light, and, seeing not myself,
Thereupon, ye gods, the woods and lawns
Grew populously glad with living things.
A frozen rod beneath my heel grew bright,
Writhing to life, and hissing drew swift coils
O’er the upspringing grass; above my head
A willow loosed her silver-shimmering hair,
There came a hum of bees, a song of birds;
And far dim mountains hollow’d out themselves
To give forth streams, till down the mountain-sides
The loosen’d streams ran flowing. Then a voice
Came from the darkness as it roll’d away
Under Apollo’s sunshine-sandall’d foot,
And the voice murmur’d ‘Pan!’ and woods and streams,
Sky-kissing mountains and the glad green vales,
Cried ‘Pan!’ and earth’s reverberating caves
Gave forth an answer, ‘Pan!’ and stooping down
His fiery eyes to smile me from my trance,
Unto the ravishment of his soft lyre,
‘Pan!’ sang Apollo. The great greenwood heard,
And lived and brighten’d, till thro’ murmurous leaves
Pale wood-nymphs peep’d around me whispering ‘Pan!’
And fainter faces floated in the stream
That gurgled to my ankle, whispering ‘Pan!’
Clinging unto the azure gown of air
That floated earthward dropping scented dews,
A hundred lesser spirits panted ‘Pan!’
And, far along an opening forest-glade,
Beating a green lawn with alternate feet,
‘Pan!’ cried the Satyrs leaping. Then all sounds
Were hush’d for coming of a sweeter sound;
And rising up, with outstretch’d arms, I, Pan,
Look’d eastward, lived, and knew myself a God.
It was not well, ye gods, it was not well!
Star-guiders, cloud-compellers—ye who stretch
Ambrosia-dripping limbs, great-statured, bright,
Silken and soft-proportion’d, in a place
Thick-carpeted with sward as soft as sleep;
Who with mild luminous eyes of liquid depth
Subdue to perfect peace and painless calm
The mists and vapours of the nether-world,
That curl up dimly from the nether-world
And roll a roseate mist wherein ye lie
Broad-foreheaded, soft-lidded, stretch’d supine
In drowsy contemplations—ye great gods,
Who meditate your souls and find them fair—
Ye heirs of odorous rest—it was not well!—
For, while Apollo smiled and sang, I, Pan,
In whom a gracious godhead lived and moved,
Rose, glorious-hearted, gazing down; and lo,
Goat-legs, goat-thighs, goat-feet, uncouth and rude,
And, higher, the breast and bowels of a beast,
Huge thews and twisted sinews swoll’n like cords,
And thick integument of bark-brown skin—
A hideous apparition masculine!
But in my veins a new and natural youth,
In my bright veins a music as of boughs
When the cool aspen-fingers of the Rain
Feel for the eyelids of the flowers in spring;
In every vein quick life; within my soul
The flashing of some fair eternity
Just faded, yet forgotten.
By my lawns,
My honey-flowing rivers, by my vines
Grape-growing, by my mountains down whose sides
The slow flocks thread like silver streams at eve,
By the deep comfort in the eyes of Zeus
When the loud murmur of my glad green dales
Comes soft, subdued by distance, to his ears,
There where he reigns, cloud-shrouded—by meek lives
That smoothe themselves like breasts of doves and brood
Over immortal themes for love of me—
I swear it was not well.
Ay, ay! ye smile;—
Ye hear me, garrulous, and turn again
To contemplation of the slothful clouds
That curtain ye for sweetness. Hear me, gods!
Not the ineffable stars that interlace
The azure panoply of Zeus himself
Have surer sweetness than my hyacinths
When they grow blue in gazing on blue heaven,
Than the white lilies of my running rivers
When on spring nights Selené’s silver horn
Spills paleness, peace, and fragrance.—And for these,
For all the sensible or senseless things
Which swell the sounds and sights of earth and air,
I snatch some splendour which of right belongs
To you whom I revile: ay, and for these,
For all the sensible or senseless things
Which swell the sounds and sights of earth and air,
I will snatch fresher glory, fresher joy,
Robbing your rights in heaven day by day,
Till from my dispensation ye remove
Darkness and tempest, hunger and deep drought,
The fatal alchemy of frost, the pains
That plague me in the season of wet winds—
Till, bit by bit, my bestial nether-man
Peels off like bark, my green old age shoots up
Godhead apparent, and I know myself
Fair—as becomes a god!
Ay, I shall thrive!
Not I alone am something garrulous, gods!
But the broad-bosom’d earth, whose countless young
Moan ‘Pan!’ most piteously when ye frown
In tempests, or when Thunder, waving wings,
Groans crouching from your lightning spears, and then
Springs at your throats with disappointed shriek!
Not I alone, vast horror masculine,
But earthquake-shaken hills, the dewy dales,
Blue rivers as they flow, and boughs of trees,
Yea, monsters, and the purblind race of men,
Grow garrulous of your higher glory, gods;
Yearning unto it moan my name aloud,
Climbing unto it shriek or whisper ‘Pan!’
Till from the far-off verdurous depths, from deep
Impenetrable woods whose sunless roots
Blacken to coal or redden into gold,
I, stirring in this ancient dream of mine,
Make answer—and they hear.
I, sick of mine own envy, hollow’d out
A Valley, green and deep; then, pouring forth
From the great hollow of my hand a stream
Sweeter than honey, bade it slip along
In blue and oily lapse to the far sea.
Upon its banks grew iris, meadow-sweet,
Gum-dropping poplars and the purple vine,
Slim willows dusty like the thighs of bees,
And, further, stalks of corn and wheat and flax,
And, even further, on the mountain sides
White sheep and new-yean’d lambs, and in the midst
Mild-featured shepherds piping. Was not this
An image of your grander ease, O gods?
A faint fair picture of your bliss, O gods?
They thank’d me, those sweet shepherds, with the smoke
Of bloodless sacrifice of spice and herbs,
And gentle weeds that grew upon the ground;
And when they came upon me ere aware,
And suddenly beheld me when I piped
By rivers lorn my mournful ditties old,
Cried ‘Pan!’ and worshipp’d. Yet it was not well,
Ye gods, it was not well, that I, who gave
The harvest to these men, and with my breath
Thicken’d the wool upon the backs of sheep,
I, Pan, should in these purblind mortal forms
Witness a loveliness more gently fair,
Nearer to your large loveliness, O gods!
Than my immortal wood-pervading self,—
Goat-footed, horn’d, a monster—yet a god.
By wanton Aphrodité’s velvet limbs,
I swear, ye amorous gods, it was not well!—
Down the long vale of Arcady I chased
A wood-nymph, unapparell’d white of limb,
From gleaming shoulder unto foot a curve
Delicious, like the bow of Artemis:
A gleam of liquid moonlight on her arms;
Within her veins a motion as of waves
Moon-led and silver-crested to the moon;
And in her heart a sweetness such as fills
Uplooking maidens when the virgin orb
Witches cold bosoms into fluttering fire.
Her, after summer noon, what time her foot
Startled with moonlight motion milk-blue stalks
Of hyacinths in a dim forest glade,—
Her saw I, and, uplifting eager arms,
I rush’d around her as a rush of boughs,
My touch thrill’d thro’ her, she beheld my face,
And like a gnat it stung her, and she fled.
Down the green glade, along the verdurous shade,
She screaming fled and I pursued behind:
By Zeus! it was as though the forest moved
Behind her, following; and with shooting boughs,
And bristling arms and stems, and murmurous leaves,
It eddied after her—my underwood
Of bramble and the yellow-blossom’d furze
Flung its thick growth around her waist, my vines
Roll’d arms around her, and my growing grass
Put forth its green and sappy oils and slid
Under her feet; until, with streaming hair
Like ravell’d sunshine torn ’mid scars and cliffs,
Pale, breathless, and long-throated like a swan,
With tongue that panted ’tween the foamy lips
As a red arrow in a tulip’s cup,
She, coming swiftly on the river-side,
Into the circle of a sedgy pool
Plunged knee-deep, shrieking. Then I, thrusting arms
To grasp her, touch’d her with hot hands that clung
Like burrs to the soft skin! while, writhing down
Even as a fountain lessens gurglingly,
She cried to Artemis, ‘Artemis, Artemis,
Sweet goddess, Artemis, aid me, Artemis!’
And o’er the laurels on the river-side,
Dark and low-fluttering, Daphne’s hidden soul
Breathed fearful hoar-frost, echoing ‘Artemis;’
When lo, above the sallow sunset rose
The silver sickle of the green-gown’d witch,
Which flicker’d thrice into a pallid orb,
And thrice flash’d white across the forest leaves,
And—lo, the change ye wot of: melting limbs
Black’ning to oosy sap of reeds, white hands
Streaming aloft and slipping forth green shoots,
The faint breath-bubbles circling in a pool,
Last, the sharp voice’s murmur dying away
In the low lapping of the rippling pool,
The melancholy motion of the pool,
And the faint undertone of whispering reeds.
By Latmos and its shepherd, was it well?
By smooth-chinn’d Syrinx, was it well, O gods?
Yet mark. What time the pallid sickle wax’d
Blue-edged and vitreous o’er the black’ning West,
I, looming shadowy in the smooth pool, stoop’d
Plucking seven wondrous pipes of brittle reeds
Wherein the wood-nymph’s soul still flutter’d faint;
And these seven pipes I shaped to one, wherein
I, Pan, with ancient and dejected head
Nodding above its image in the pool,
And large limbs stretch’d their length on shadowy banks,
Did breathe such weird and awful ravishment,
Such symmetry of sadness and sweet sound,
Such murmurs of deep boughs and hollow cells,
That neither bright Apollo’s hair-strung lute,
Nor Heré’s queenly tongue when her red lips
Flutter to intercession of love-thoughts
Throned in the counsel-keeping eyes of Zeus,
Nor airs from heaven, blow sweetlier. Hear me, gods
Behind her veil of azure, Artemis
Turn’d pale and listen’d; mountains, woods, and streams,
And every mute and living thing therein,
Marvell’d, and hush’d themselves to hear the end—
Yea, far away, the fringe of the green sea
Caught the sad sound, and with a deeper moan
Rounded the pebbles on the shadowy shore.
Whence, in the season of the pensive eve,
The Earth plumes down her weary, weary wings;
The Hours, each frozen in her mazy dance,
Look scared upon the stars, and seem to stand
Stone-still, like chisell’d statues mocking Time;
And woods and streams and mountains, beasts and birds,
And serious hearts of purblind men, are hush’d;
While music sweeter far than any dream
Floats from the far-off silence, where I sit
Wondrously wov’n about with forest boughs—
Through which the moon peeps faintly, on whose leaves
The unseen stars sprinkle a diamond dew—
And shadow’d in some water that not flows,
But, pausing, spreads dark waves as smooth as oil
Am I over-garrulous, gods?
Thou pale-faced witch, green-kirtled,—thou whose light
Troubles the beardless shepherd where he sleeps
On Latmos,—am I over-garrulous?
Nay, then, pale huntress of my groves, I swear
The lily and the primrose ’neath thy heel
Savour as fair as thee, as pure as thee,
Drinking the lucid splendour of thy speed;
And on the cheeks of marriageable maids
Dwelleth a pallor enviably sweet,
Sweet as thy sweetest self, yet robb’d from thee.
Snow-bosom’d lady, art thou proud?—Then hark! . . .
When last in the cool quiet of the night
Thou glimmeredst dimly down with thy white nymphs,
And brush’d these dewy lawns with buskin’d foot,
I, Pan the scorn’d, into an oak-tree crept,
And holding between thumb and finger—thus!—
A tiny acorn, dropt it cunningly
In the small nest beneath thy snow-heap’d breasts,
And thou didst pause in tumult, cry aloud,
Then redden’d like a rose from breast to brow,
Sharp-crimson like a rose from breast to brow,
And trembled, aspen-hearted, timorous
As new-yean’d lambs, and with a young doe’s cry
Startled amazed from thine own tremulous shade
Faint-mirror’d in the dark and dewy lawn!
Ha, turn your mild grand eyes, O gods, and hear!
Why do I murmur darkly, do ye ask?
What do I seek for, yearn for?—Why, not much,
I would be shapely-limb’d and straight and tall
And pleasant-featured, like Apollo there!
I would be lithe and light as Hermes is;
And, with that glittering sheath of god-like form,
Trust me, could find for it a wit as keen
As that which long ago did prick and pain
The thin skin of the Sun-god. I would be
Grand and great-statured as becomes a god,
A sight divine conceived harmoniously,
A stately incarnation of my sweet
Pipings in lonely places. There’s the worm!
Ay, ay! the mood is on me—I am aged,
White-bearded, and my very lifted hands
Shake garrulously—and ye hear, and smile.
By the faint undertone of this blind Earth,
Swooning towards the pathway of the Sun
With flowery pulses, leafy veins, whene’er
She hears in intercession of new births
My voice miraculous melancholy old,—
I swear not I alone, a sensible god,
Shall keep these misproportions, worse than beast’s;
While woods and streams, and all that dwell therein,
And merest flowers, and the starr’d coils of snakes,
Yea, purblind mortal men, inhale from heaven
Such dews as give them heavenly seemliness,
Communicably lovely as the shapes
That doze on high Olympus.
Is it well?
Ye who compel the very clouds to forms
Beauteous and purely beauteous, ere my winds
Rend their white vestments into rain to make
My peaceful vales look lovely,—gods, great gods,
I ask ye, is it well?—Ye answer not.
But Earth has answer’d, and all things that grow,
All things that live, all things that feel or see
The interchanges of the sun and moon;
And with a yearning palpable and dumb,
Yet conscious of some glory yet unborn,
Of some new wonder yet to come, I, Pan,
In the time unborn,—in years
Across whose waste I wearily impel
These ancient, blear’d, and humble-lidded eyes,—
Some law more strong than I, yet part of me,
Some power more piteous, yet a part of me,
Shall hurl ye from Olympus to the depths,
And bruise ye back to that great blackness whence
Ye blossom’d thick as flowers; while I—I, Pan—
The haunting shadow of dim nether-earth,
Shall slough this form of beast, this wrinkled length,
Yea, cast it from my feet as one who shakes
A worthless garment off; and lo, beneath,
Mild-featured manhood, manhood eminent,
Subdued into the glory of a god,
Sheer harmony of body and of soul,
Wondrous, and inconceivably divine.
Wherefore, ye gods, with this my prophecy
I sadden those sweet sounds I pipe unseen.
From dimly lonely places float the sounds
To haunt the regions of the homeless air,
Whatever changeful season ye vouchsafe
To all broad worlds which, hearing, whisper, ‘Pan!’
And thence they reach the hearts of lonely men,
Who wearily bear the burthen and are pain’d
To utterance of fond prophetic song,
Who singing smile, because the song is sweet,
Who die, because they cannot sing the end.
It is my care to keep the graves of such
Thick-strewn and deep with grass and precious flowers
Such as ye slumber on; and to those graves,
In sable vestments, ever comes the ghost
Of my forgot and dumb eternity,
Mnemosyne; but what she broods on there
I know not, nor can any wholly know,
Mortal or god. The seasons come and go,
In their due season perish rocks and trees,
In their due season are the streams drain’d dry;
Earth dumbly changes, and those lonely men,
Less blind than purblind mortals, sing and die;
But still, with hooded and dejected head,
Above those graves ponders Mnemosyne;
While I remain to pipe my ditties old,
And my new prophecy, in lonely woods
And by the marge of miserable pools,—
My wondrous music dying afar away
Upon the fringes of the setting Sun.
‘The Last Song Of Apollo’ - originally published as ‘The Swan-Song Of Apollo’ in the second edition of Undertones, 1865. The original version was published in the 1884 Chatto & Windus Poetical Works, whereas this is a slightly revised version.
THE LAST SONG OF APOLLO
‘All at once there approached, panting, a pale Jew, with blood-drops
on his brow, a thorn-crown on his head, and a huge cross on his shoulders;
and he cast the cross on the banquet-table of the gods, so that the golden
cups trembled, and the gods grew dumb and pale, and even paler, till they
finally dissolved away into mist.’—HEINE’S Reisebilder.
O LYRE! O Lyre!
Strung with celestial fire!
Thou living soul of sound that answereth [1:3]
These fingers that have troubled thee so long, [1:4]
With passion, and with beauty, and with breath
Of melancholy song,—
Answer, answer, answer me,
With thy mournful melody!
For the earth is old, and strange
Mysteries are working change,
And the Dead who slumber’d deep
Startle sobbing in their sleep,
And the ancient gods divine,
Wan and weary o’er their wine,
Fade in their ghastly banquet-halls, with large eyes fixed on mine! [1:15]
Ah me! ah me!
The earth and air and sea
Are shaken; and the great pale gods sit still,
The roseate mists around them roll away:—
Lo! Hebe listens in the act to fill,
And groweth wan and gray;
On the banquet-table spread,
Fruits and flowers grow black and dead,
Nectar cold in every cup
Gleams to blood and withers up;
Aphrodité breathes a charm,
Gripping Pallas’ bronzèd arm;
Zeus the Father clenches teeth,
While his cloud-throne shakes beneath;
The passion-flower in Heré’s hair melts in a snowy wreath!
Ah, woe! ah, woe!
One climbeth from below,—
A mortal shape with pallid smile doth rise,
Bearing a heavy Cross and crown’d with thorn,—
His brow is moist with blood, his strange sweet eyes
Look piteous and forlorn:
Hark, Oh hark! his cold foot-fall
Breaks upon the banquet-hall!
God and goddess start to hear,
Earth, air, ocean, moan in fear;
Shadows of the Cross and Him
Make the banquet-table dim,
Silent sit the gods divine,
Old and haggard over wine,
And slowly to my song they fade, with large eyes fixed on mine!
O Lyre! O Lyre!
Thy strings of golden fire
Fade to their fading, and the hand is chill
That touches thee; the once glad brow grows gray—
I faint, I wither, while that conclave still
Dies wearily away!
Ah, the prophecy of old
Sung by Pan to scoffers cold!—
God and goddess droop and die,
Chilly cold against the sky,
There is change and all is done,
Strange look Moon and Stars and Sun!
God and goddess fade, and see!
All their large eyes look at me!
While woe! ah, woe! in dying song, I fade, I fade, with thee!
Alterations in the 1882 Selected Poems:
The Heine quotation is omitted.
v. 1, l. 3: A living soul of sound that answereth
v. 1, l. 4: These fingers that have troubled it so long
v. 1, l. 15: Wail in their ghastly banquet-halls, with large eyes fixed on mine! ]
‘Pan: Epilogue’ - originally published, as ‘Pan’, in The Saint Pauls Magazine, June, 1872. ‘Pan: Epilogue’ was included in the ‘London Poems (1866-70)’ section of the 1884 Chatto & Windus Poetical Works.and can be found in the ‘Additional London Poems’ section of the site.
The Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan, Vol. I - continued
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